Since there are no colleges or trade schools that confer certificates in being a politician, you may wonder how a person becomes one. How does a politician get started? What skills are needed to become a successful politician?
Whether your dream is to serve at the local level, in state politics, or in a national political fight, you need to know how to get involved with a political party, understand what a political campaign is, and shape yourself into the ideal politician by developing certain characteristics.
Skills Necessary to Politicians
Ability to be objective — There will be many times in your career in politics that you simply must be objective and unemotional or else you’ll make poor choices. Being objective means understanding yourself, your constituency, the inner workings of a legislative body, and how to speak to the public in an objective manner. You aren’t simply evaluating issues as they come at you — you’re evaluating them without adding your personal interests into the mix.
Speaking Skills — Politicians speak all the time — in front of the public, in front of their colleagues, on television and in radio interviews. The ability to speak well in public is crucial to a future in politics. Not only do you need public speaking skills, but you need to be able to talk to many different kinds of people, from the “average Joe” man on the street to reading off a teleprompter, speaking off the cuff, and appearing charismatic.
Writing Skills — Even though speech writers do a lot of the writing work of politicians, speeches aren’t the only kind of writing a politician will do. Early in your political career, if you’re in a local or state position, you’ll be doing all of your writing on your own. Politicians also prepare briefs, summaries of political issues, letters to constituents and fund-raising entities, bills, platform statements for the press, and even campaign material like commercials and advertisements. Being able to write is just as important for a politician as being able to speak.
Confidence — Politicians exude confidence — they are confident in their looks, in their political message, and in their reason for running for public office. Without confidence, all your political posturing will look like nothing but a dig for power. Confidence will help a politician improve in all other categories by making them more sure of their actions.
Get Involved with a Political Party
This is always the first step on the road to a career in politics. Political parties are the main agents of political activity in America, and voters unite with politicians and pundits under the umbrella of a particular political party. The political party that a politician aligns his or herself with has some influence on that politician’s decisions (such as that party’s platform and ideology) but a good politician knows how to operate within the lines of the political party but still be somewhat independent.
The United States is technically a multi-party system, but history shows that we tend to favor just two parties — the Republicans (known as the Grand Old Party or GOP) and the Democrats. A huge majority of all national politicians from all branches are members of one of these two political parties. You are welcome to join up with another party, but there are few positions for elected officials open to people from nontraditional parties.
Getting Involved Politically
Your first opportunities to work with a political party will come through volunteer work. Volunteering your time to help your neighbors get registered to vote is a great way to start your political service — and anyone can volunteer to help in this manner. You may also line yourself up with a particular party and go around collecting donations for that party’s candidates or the party itself. While volunteering in this manner, attend political events in your area, like conventions and elections to get a feel for the American political process.
If you want to get your political career on track early, schedule meetings with the leadership of your chosen political party. You can call, email, or just show up to the offices of your local officials and political candidates. Offer them your time, tell them you want to volunteer, and mention that you are looking forward to a career in politics. This is the beginning of a life of political glad handing.
Becoming a politician doesn’t mean buying a bunch of fancy suits and trying to avoid being arrested. This country needs politicians who are driven by a desire to make our country better, not power hungry people who want to use their political influence for gain. If you get involved with your local political party and candidates now, you’ll be better prepared for your political career after college.